Since I get a steady diet of this question, I thought it was probably long overdue to offer a post which I can regularly direct people to moving forward. Additionally, what’s better about this video than just an email from me summarizing the Jesus/homosexuality issue is that Piers Morgan (the show’s host) makes his case with all of the matter-of-fact bravado that someone has probably tried to intimidate you with before. But…Morgan runs into someone who understands the Bible considerably better than he does.
Morgan’s argument in the clip – “Jesus clearly didn’t think homosexuality was a big issue since he never talked about it.” – you’ve likely heard this argument before. Could it be true? Well, an argument from silence really isn’t much of an argument. As Dr. Michael Brown points out, “Jesus did not address wife-beating or heroin-shooting but we don’t use that argument from silence.” Only someone with a clear agenda would do the rational gymnastics it’d take to try to surmise that the Bible (or Jesus) was okay with such things.
An even better argument, however, is that Jesus, on several occasions, outright states that he is upholding the Jewish sexual ethic that was stated throughout the Old Testament. Dr. Brown points out three instances:
1) Matthew 5:17 – Jesus says, “Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them.” Jesus is saying that the universal sexual morals taught in the Old Testament are still firmly in place.
2) Matthew 15:19 – Jesus says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person.” Jesus is saying that “adultery and sexual immorality,” two terms which together fully encompass all sex that is outside of God-designed sex – i.e. between a husband and a wife – defiles people.
3) Matthew 19:4-6 – Jesus says, “Haven’t you read that at the beginning the Creator ‘made them male and female,’ and said, ‘For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh’? So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.” Jesus is saying that marriage was designed by God to be for one man and one woman for life.
These passages are ONLY what Jesus himself directly says. This doesn’t include all of the specifics of the Old Testament or all of the further direction from New Testament writers concerning homosexuality.
What’s the real issue here?
I think this is another example of the trickle down effect of waning biblical literacy. People have just as strong of opinions about the Bible as they ever did, yet know their Bibles less.
Biblical illiteracy is more than the issue of people today falling for the question, “How many animals did Moses bring on the Ark?” (ANSWER: MOSES didn’t bring any animals on the Ark.) In other words, biblical illiteracy is not just a mechanical memorization of the names, places, and timeframe of the Bible. Yes, much of this has been lost. More importantly, however, the truths and themes these accounts teach are slipping from society’s consciousness…and conscience. Put differently, not knowing Jesus’ stance on homosexuality is the direct result of us becoming less familiar with our Bibles, which perfectly corresponds with our society’s increasingly lax stance on sexual immorality.
Consequently, if you hold a position different from the historically consistent biblical position, i.e. if you take the position that Jesus (and the Bible) are accepting of a homosexual lifestyle, by all means, you are free to do so. BUT, please do the name of Christ a favor. If you’re labeling yourself a Christian, please also be clear to say, “Just so you know, I’m taking a position entirely different from what the Bible teaches.” By the way, in doing so, in reinterpreting or dismissing Scripture for the sake of personal opinion, convenience, or contemporary societal assumption, just be warned that this act itself is entirely different from how “being a Christian” has historically been defined. In other words, part of the very definition of Christianity is recognizing Jesus both as your SAVIOR from sins AND your LORD, which means that you are willing to subject your personal opinions and conveniences to the truth of your master.
The case I’m trying to make here is that the clarity of Jesus’ teaching about homosexuality is not the issue. Open homosexuality taking place in our society, while not God-pleasing, really isn’t a threat to Christianity either. “Christians” not knowing what their Bible teaches and thus distorting the teaching of an inspired Word – that’s a massive threat to Christian faith right now.
Two errors to avoid
As in most cases, there are two roads Christians will hope to avoid in the conversation about the place of homosexuality in our society.
1) The self-indulgent position – Homosexuality is an important, sensitive cultural issue today. If Christians have any love whatsoever for the people around them, they will want to know how the Bible addresses an issue that today affects every single person’s life directly. A Christian will not, therefore, be unprepared when someone hits them with, “Well, Jesus never said anything against homosexuality.” If you care about that person, you will be ready to offer something about Jesus’ position on the biblical sexual ethic. If you don’t have something to say about it, you will almost invariably go along with the anti-biblical spirit of the day, the gospel conceived in the 60s sexual revolution – that love should have no borders.
2) The self-righteous position – A major part of the angst from the homosexual community when it comes to marriage legislation, etc., is that heterosexuals haven’t exactly demonstrated the beauty of God’s design for marriage and sexuality in the past half century. That’s actually a very valid argument. While our own personal failures or weaknesses don’t technically disprove a point we’re trying to make, they do tend to discredit the impact of our voice.
Consider this: nearly 80% of our country claims Christianity. Nonetheless, 50% of our country’s marriages end in divorce. Furthermore, the best research suggests that Christians are every bit as active in pre-marital sex as the non-believing world (Mark D. Regnerus, Forbidden Fruit, Sex and Religion in the Lives of American Teenagers, pg. 205). According to another recent study, four out of five unmarried evangelicals ages eighteen to twenty-nine have had sex (Tyler Charles, “True Love Isn’t Waiting,” Neue 6 [April/May 2011], 32-36.). So why should anyone care what the average Christian has to say about biblical sexuality? They shouldn’t. We’ve lost credibility.
Now I’m not saying that a Christian shouldn’t be clear to explain the Bible’s stance on human sexuality (they should, or else they fall back into the self-indulgent position). I’m saying that a Christian should explain the biblical stance while at the same time never considering himself morally superior to the homosexual. I’m also saying that if we have unrepented sexual sin in our own lives, that should offend us significantly more than any sexual sin we see going on “out there” in the world. “You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.” (Matt. 7:5)
Or, as researcher David Kinnaman puts it:
“We (Christians) need a willingness to talk about and ‘own’ our struggles with sex, even as we stay on high alert or judgmentalism in our hearts. Hypocrisy might be defined as leniency toward ourselves and strict standards for everyone else.” (You Lost Me, pg. 162)
A Christian wants to boldly stand for truth even as he humbly acknowledges weakness. And if he’s guilty himself, the Christian confesses and corrects himself before he dreams of correcting others.
In the words of Dr. Brown, “I’d encourage you to re-study what Scripture says.” That’s it. Few things are tougher to see than Christians who think they can get away without studying their Bibles. How do we keep falling for this? If Satan could do no other single thing, it’d be to get us to not study our Bibles – the one thing that can give us spiritual life. “The Spirit gives life…The words I have spoken to you—they are full of the Spirit and life.” (John 6:63)
Scarier than having a misunderstanding of Jesus’ stance on homosexuality, however, is what this misunderstanding insinuates in the bigger picture. If I don’t know Jesus’ position on human sexuality, what else might I not understand about Jesus’ teaching? Do I really understand the depth of his love for me? Do I really understand the costliness of his forgiveness? Do I really understand that my salvation is entirely by grace?
Scripture isn’t just life-guiding. It’s life-giving. Therefore, I need to regularly re-study what it says.